By nature Sean McCarry is a private person, but when it comes to talking about his passion for community rescue, his heart often overrules his head. The humble hero and reluctant interviewee helped found and now heads up the Community Rescue Service (CRS) in Northern Ireland, leading a team of 280 volunteers at all hours of the day and night and in all weathers to search for lost loved ones.
It's a service so many people in Northern Ireland are indebted to and last weekend the community got to show their appreciation in a way which deeply touched Sean and his colleagues.
Hundreds gathered in north Belfast to clap for the rescue volunteers who tirelessly worked for six days and nights in an effort to find missing 14-year-old Noah Donohoe.
Of course, no one appreciated their efforts more than the Donohoe family. Noah's aunts and cousins were out every day of the search helping and supporting the team and his aunt personally thanked the volunteers for all their efforts.
In the 13-year history of the service, it was also the first time that people had so publicly demonstrated their appreciation.
For regional commander Sean, who led the team, it is a gesture he will never forget. "Twice we had two massive rounds of applause, which was so emotional and moving and at the same time so uplifting," he says.
"It will stay in our hearts for years. That people so openly expressed their thanks to us is so amazing. Noah's mum said she thought he would change the world. He certainly changed our world."
Last week thousands of people across Northern Ireland hoped against hope that the St Malachy's schoolboy would be found safe and well. Tragically, despite their prayers, on Saturday the news broke that his body had been discovered in a storm drain.
While the search operation dominated news headlines and galvanised a huge community effort, the tough job of trying to locate a missing loved one is something which the amazing volunteers of CRS do around 400 times a year - and usually without much, if any, media attention.
It's worth stressing, too, that gratitude is not something which these big-hearted and tireless volunteers ever seek. Theirs is a job usually carried out well away from the spotlight.
The reason Sean became involved in such missions dates back to a tragedy in his teenage years.
Brought up in Ballycastle, he knew from an early age what it was like for someone you cared about to go missing.
When he was just 17, his best friend from school was lost at sea after a fishing trawler he was working on sank in a storm.
"He was a very good friend of mine and his body was not found for a while. That was imprinted on my mind," explains Sean.
"Having been brought up on the coast, I was aware of these things and also of the need for the community to work together to find people."
Historically, as a direct consequence of the Troubles, for years Northern Ireland was the only region in the UK and Ireland that did not have a lowland rescue team. It was simply too dangerous.
But as soon as real peace became a possibility, Sean, who was already involved in sea rescues with the Coastguard and RNLI crews, started talks with the PSNI to establish a service here.
Now living in Portstewart and the owner of six businesses including an engineering company and a restaurant, Sean (62) is married to Liz (60), who works with him in his companies.
The couple have four children, Sinead (35), Kevin (32), Stevie (30) and Christopher (21), and four grandchildren.
Despite being kept busy at work, Sean always finds time to devote to the CRS when their help is needed.
The voluntary service works closely with the PSNI when anyone goes missing, fielding teams of highly trained and dedicated volunteers.
Sean tells me how it works and the importance of community to the service. "We have 10 teams strategically placed across the province and we operate by a national standard with a uniform rank and a lot of training," he says.
"Every volunteer completes six months of basic training and then does a year of probation. It is 18 months before they are fully fledged members. Even after that, training is ongoing.
"Our motto is 'professional in all but pay' because no one gets paid for what they do.
"We are 99% funded by the community and a lot of that comes from the volunteers themselves. We can't do our job without that. We are funded by the community and we work for the community."
The stricken faces of Noah's mum Fiona and his family circle as they visited the search location touched hearts and Sean was very moved by the outpouring of support for the Donohoes and for the volunteers' efforts.
"We got some lovely letters after last week's search for Noah about how we had united the community and that's what we try to do everywhere we go," he says.
"For years people here were unable to help themselves as we were divided by walls. We like to think we help make sure the community can help themselves at times of crisis. In a way we are helping our people to take charge of their own destiny."
Nowhere was the community spirit more apparent than last week when hundreds came from across Belfast and Northern Ireland to help look for Noah.
The tragic six-day search for the missing teenager brought people together in a joint purpose to bring him home to his distraught mum.
Sean has nothing but praise for the way people responded.
"Early on the focus was on getting people to search their gardens and outbuildings. We continued circulating and looking around for about a day and a half and during that time we really needed the help," he explains.
"We then asked people to leave it to us as we needed to carry out a more thorough and efficient search with specialist equipment and teams. Immediately the people responded and large numbers stopped coming out.
"They kept up their support by providing us with tea, bottles of water and sandwiches. We are really thankful to them that they didn't get in the way. They stepped up when they were needed and held back when we needed them to. It was wonderful to see."
Sean's expertise in search and rescue is recognised across the world, where he has been invited to help in many emergency situations including the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York in 2001.
Back then, he spent two and a half months working at Ground Zero following the twin towers attack. He was also the only person from outside the country to be presented with a 9/11 medal by the US President.
While every search is different, the aim is always the same: to bring the person back to their loved ones.
It is a highly emotive job and one which Sean says can affect team members deeply.
Debriefing is standard for volunteers and every member is there to support each other in dealing with the huge scale of tragedy they experience week in, week out.
"A crisis brings out the best in us," Sean says. "It makes you realise what life is about. All you want to do is get through it safely for as long as you can.
"People get caught up in things like social media and their own self-image.
"I wish young people in particular would realise that none of that is really relevant."
He also has a "golden rule" for the men and women who turn out to search in often harrowing cases.
"We don't take it home to our families," Sean says. "That can cause problems in itself because you do need to deal with it, but who do you tell?
"You can't do this job without having a strong personality and also believing in what you are doing.
"In the service we have each other. The members are often the only people you can discuss it with. It is very important the volunteers who are at the heart of CRS know they can speak to me at any time.
"A big part of my job is to have a personal relationship with every single one of them - and that's nearly 300 people.
"The volunteers know that if anything is bothering them at any time they can rely on me. I rely on them every bit as much."
Sean says it was heartbreaking for the volunteers that they didn't find Noah alive, but they drew some small comfort from the fact they were able to bring him home to his mum.
The way the community responded is, Sean believes, an example for the future of how we all should behave in similar circumstances. "This is not about me or the volunteers. It is about the people out there we go looking for and their families and the community," he explains.
"The community spirit in Northern Ireland is phenomenal. We tapped into that community spirit last week and I hope that when we move into another job it carries on. People really wanted to be part of something and make a difference. Even when we had to move about the city, if we came to a busy junction, cars would stop to let us past. People were just amazing."
Despite the bleakest of outcomes in Noah's case, Sean tries to stay positive. "In our business you never lose hope - it has to be the thing that lasts the longest," he says. "When Noah was found deceased, I have to continue to inspire hope in our volunteers by asking what we can learn from it.
"It would have been awful if the public spirit dropped after Noah was found, but it didn't. If that is not a tribute to Noah, I don't know what is. The only consolation is that we were able to bring Noah back and his family does not have the horror of not knowing where he is."